Why run trails? I have lived in the Northwest since 1982, but I actually didn’t start running until 2007 because it was required for a triathlon I wanted to do. I liked mountain biking and road biking, and I used to race mountain bikes back in the 90s. I just didn’t like running. It hurt, it was boring and it made time stand still. I had never found the “runner’s high” that everyone talked about.

In the beginning of my triathlon training, I neglected my training runs, opting to bike or swim instead. I started with sprint triathlons and worked my way up to the Ironman distance. Of course I don’t recommend that you EVER avoid training runs, especially if you are training for a long distance triathlon. Training for an Ironman is time consuming, and you have to be selfish with your time. But after devoting all of that time to my triathlon training, I found that running got easier for me. I don’t know if that was because my fitness level improved or because it was something different from biking or swimming. Maybe it was just the simplicity of running. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that I developed such a deep passion for running. After finishing Ironman, I needed something different. In 2011 I was exposed to trail running and I have never looked back.

A friend of mine suggested that I enter the Orcas Island 25K trail run with him. So the last weekend in January, we got a group together and headed over to the San Juan Islands. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I registered for this race, and at the time it was probably one of the hardest things I had ever completed.

The Orcas Island 25K starts out with a relatively flat first 6 miles and then turns into a 2-mile climb up a powerline “trail.” There really is no running on this section whatsoever, more like hiking and stopping to catch your breath followed by more hiking. After the powerline trail, you climb switchbacks and finish on top of Mount Constitution, and then you kind-of get to descend back to the finish line in Moran State Park. The scenery of this beautiful course plus the hanging out and drinking beer afterward created a life-changing experience for me. I had no idea that running could be so difficult yet so rewarding and visually stimulating.

Since that first race in 2011, I have finished trail runs from 5 miles to 50k distances, and I am currently training for my first 100-mile trail run. The Inland Northwest has so many beautiful trails and state parks to offer, and I felt the need to bring the camaraderie of trail running here. In 2012 I started Trail Maniacs. This year we are offering 10 races that include the popular State Park Series, a ladies-only yoga and trail running retreat and our Trail Maniac Club runs. I am following my passion and working full time for Trail Maniacs (with the help and support of my lovely wife). One of the most rewarding things about following this passion of mine is the friendships that I have formed by trail running. I always say that going to a Trail Maniacs race is like going to a family reunion, but you get to hang out with people you like. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings! // (Dave Dutro)

Dave Dutro is an avid trail runner, mountain biker, hiker and the co-founder of the Trail Maniacs trail running club (Trailmaniacs.com). Look for more words from Dave in his new trail running column “Run Wild” in upcoming issues of Out There Monthly.